Category Archives: Video Games

MechWarrior Online Competitive Scene

MechWarrior Online has been the pinnacle of simulated ‘Mech combat since its closed beta in 2012, and as a PvP game, competitive leagues have surrounded the game since its inception. Now, nearly half a decade later, the competitive scene for MWO is as vibrant and alive as ever, with the best MechWarriors duking it out for fame, glory, and honor. Strap on your neurohelmet while we take a tour of MechWarrior Online’s competitive leagues.

The big kahuna is the one sponsored by the game’s developers, Piranha games. With 2016’s first place team taking home over $86,000.00, the World Championship draws ‘Mech teams from across the globe to compete for real cash. The previous year’s championship saw teams separated by region (North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific) compete in a round-robin qualifier held throughout the year. The top 5 teams from each region then went on to the regional finals, with the winner of each region being flown to Vancouver to take part in the final matches held live at MechCon.  

For those familiar with MechWarrior Online’s 12v12 format, the tournament rules were a little different. Instead, matches were 8v8, and followed a strict format: 2 light ‘Mechs, 2 mediums, 2 heavies, and 2 assaults. Each match was held on a capture-the-point style Conquest map, with league enrolled teams voting on which maps would be used to compete. Unlike other leagues, which use the player’s own in-game resources, the World Championship gave each team access to every ‘Mech and weapon system available in the game to ensure player parity. With its emphasis on strict competition, the World Championship brought out the best the world had to offer. So far PGI has been mum on the possibility of a 2017 Championship, but with the success of the 2016 tournament there’s hope an official announcement is just around the corner.

While it doesn’t have the formal backing of the game’s designers, the MRBC takes the title of largest league in MechWarrior Online with over 180 registered teams. Founded in 2014, the league seeks to give players a fun competitive experience at a variety of skill levels. Much like the World Championships, the league is broken down by region (North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific), and each region is broken down into divisions defined by player skill level. Teams compete in a double round-robin format, and at the end of each season the top team from each division is bumped up to a senior division, while the last place team gets relegated to a lower division. Victories are scored not simply through winning a match, but also through a reward system that gives teams reputation points for certain actions during a match (like destroying a number of the opposing ‘Mechs). Although the MRBC is not officially supported by PGI, they have historically received in game currency that is awarded to the winners of each division.

In addition to ensuring participants have fun by competing against players of similar skill level, the MRBC also tries to add variety to their games. Each match is a series of games on different maps, 8v8, with an assortment of light, medium, heavy and assault weight classes. In order to achieve player parity, only ‘Mechs available for purchase with in-game currency are allowed (Hero ‘Mechs, those only available for purchase with ‘Mech Credits, MWO’s real world currency, are not legal). Teams are also only allowed to bring one duplicate chassis per match, meaning if one player brings a Timberwolf (regardless of variant) only one other player on the team is allowed to bring another Timberwolf, and all remaining ‘Mech choices must be the sole example of the chassis on the team. With these quirks, the MRBC emphasizes diversity and enjoyment over strict competition, explaining both its longevity and enormous following.

Run by the same people who run the MRBC and begun in 2016, MechWarrior Arena is a 1v1 competitive league that seeks to emulate the gladiatorial ‘Mech combat of Solaris VII. MWA follows a tiered division structure similar to the MRBC that matches players in the same region and the same skill level. Unlike Solaris VII, which broke down its tournaments by the usual ‘Mech classes of light, medium, heavy and assault, MWA breaks it down into 10 ton increments (a 20 ton Locust will fight a 25 ton Commando, but never fight a 35 ton Jenner). More in keeping with Solaris VII (and differing from the MRBC), players are allowed to bring highly customized Hero versions of ‘Mechs to combat. Winners of each division are also awarded in game prizes generously donated by PGI.

There are however some restrictions found in MWA owing to its 1v1 nature. First, streak missiles are not allowed as their presence tends to warp the format and also remove skill from determining the winner of a match. Flamers are also limited to two per ‘Mech so as to prevent each match from turning into a dance of pyromaniacs. Finally, certain ‘Mechs can be upgraded or downgraded a weight class due to their intrinsic performance (such as the Ice Ferret, which competes at the 50-55 ton level) or outright banned if they completely dominate a weight class. As with the MRBC, the emphasis is on variety of gameplay and fun.

Perhaps the oldest of MechWarrior Online’s unofficial leagues, Run Hot or Die began in the days of MechWarrior’s closed beta. For several years, RHoD was the premiere MWO competitive league covering North America and Europe, however saw its popularity wane in 2016 with the rise of the MRBC. The league returns with a fresh new format that will bring even more variety to the competitive scene.

RHoD is a single-day, Swiss Pairing, single elimination, bracket style tournament that pits warriors in 4v4 lance combat. Each match is a best of seven rounds, with each round having either a weight limit or a class restriction for the 4 ‘Mechs each team drops with (for example, one round may allow 200 tons of ‘Mechs, but another round will require each team bring one light ‘Mech, 2 mediums, and 1 heavy). Teams are also limited to 2 chassis per match, meaning if during one round a team brings two Stormcrows, they are unable to use any Stormcrows for the rest of the match. There’s no limitation on which ‘Mechs can be brought except they must be available for purchase either with in game currency or real currency (eliminating ‘Mechs that are only available via pre-order). There are also no restrictions on weaponry, giving RHoD players a wide array of options they can bring to each lance vs lance encounter.

Competitive play in MWO isn’t limited to leagues. Smaller, for fun tournaments are held all the time, and are advertised on the MWO forums and community page. Many have a charity focus, such as the MercStar Invitiational, which pits players in simulated ‘Mech combat to support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There’s even a recently released Stock Class tournament that forces players into non customized versions of their favorite ‘Mechs, eliminating the need for costly upgrades in order to compete. No matter what your skill level or resources, there’s a place for every player in MechWarrior Online’s competitive scene.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

Hot on the heels of Harebrained Scheme’s tactical RPG BattleTech comes Piranha Games with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. Best known for their development of MechWarrior Online, Piranha is taking a departure from its free2play, multiplayer business model and betting big on a single-player, blockbuster release. Announced at MechCon 2016, many aspects of the game are still well under development, but we take a look at what we do know about this sure to be hotly anticipated title.

MechWarrior 5 will take place in the year 3015, during the Third Succession War. The player starts out as a rookie MechWarrior working for a down-and-out mercenary company that over the course of your career grows into an elite fighting force, taking the most difficult contracts for the Inner Sphere’s great houses. The game then takes players through the Fourth Succession War, and leads right up to the Clan Invasion of 3049. This gives players a fantastic slice of BattleTech history to experience while also leaving the door wide open for a Clan focused sequel.

image courtesy of Piranha Games

Fans of previous installments of MechWarrior: Mercenaries know that while a story-driven campaign is nice, for a true merc it’s all about the loot. Russ Bullock, founder and president of Piranha Games, reveals in an interview with PC Gamer that MechWarrior 5 will feature a dynamic salvage system which will allow skilled pilots to carefully dismantle their enemies for extra weapons and components at the end of a contract. Expert pilots can even snipe the opponent’s cockpit, not only killing the pilot but also leaving the disabled ‘Mech as extra bounty. This sort of system has always been promised in earlier MechWarrior titles, but never quite fully delivered, and it’s our hope that Piranha nails this essential aspect of Mercenary life.


image courtesy of Piranha Games

The managerial experience doesn’t stop at hunting for salvage. MechWarrior 5 will be as much business simulator as ‘Mech combat simulator. As Russ Bullock tells PC Gamer, “Our goal is to create a very in-depth manager experience. It’s sort of like taking […] Football Manager wrapped over top of MechWarrior 1.”

Repairs, hiring pilots, and travel costs to and from contracts will all need to be factored into what contracts you take and which you pass by. Everything will have to be viewed through the lens of risk versus reward; do you take the risky contract with generous salvage conditions, or do you play it safe and take an easier contract in the hopes of saving up enough c-bills to purchase new ‘Mechs on the open market? As Russ explains to PC Gamer, “I think 95 percent of MechWarrior players will never have had this much freedom when it comes to where and who they fight for.”


image courtesy of Piranha Games

What ‘Mechs will be available so far remains a mystery. MechWarrior 5’s trailer shows a Shadow Hawk and a Raven, but beyond that we can only speculate. We can however surmise that it is likely Piranha will port over existing ‘Mechs from its roster in MechWarrior Online, as the similarities between the Shadow Hawk and Raven models would seem to indicate. Also reported in the PC Gamer article are possible limitations on how ‘Mechs can be customized. Bullock explains that, “while no final decision has been made, MechWarrior 5 is looking to focus more on a ‘variant-based free market system’ that guides how ‘Mechs are outfitted,” giving each chassis a feeling of uniqueness that can be lacking somewhat in the cookie-cutter builds seen in MechWarrior Online. There will however be multiple variants available of each ‘Mech, likely similar to if not exactly as described in the BattleTech technical readouts. While not providing the “anything goes” customization of previous MechWarrior titles, this will still provide players with flexibility in their loadouts while also preserving the essential individuality of each design.


image courtesy of Piranha Games

One thing that is certain to be unchanged from MechWarrior Online is the action.  “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel in certain areas,” says Bullock to PC Gamer. “If there’s one thing that almost everybody would agree on in our community is that one of the strongest elements of MechWarrior Online is the ‘Mech combat. It’s tight, it’s exciting.” However, MechWarrior Online has only ever held a small portion of BattleTech fans. Even Russ himself agrees that, “MechWarrior Online was, at most, half of the MechWarrior market. There’s a huge portion out there that’s just waiting for a singleplayer experience.” With a tentative release set for some time in 2018, avid fans will have to be patient while Piranha develops a game that returns us to MechWarrior’s roots. So far it looks like it’ll be worth the wait.

For more of Russ Bullock’s interview with PC Gamer, you can check out the article here.

Mechs in upcoming BattleTech Game from Harebrained Schemes

BattleTech, the upcoming turn-based ‘Mech combat game to be released by indie developer Harebrained Schemes, is shaping up extremely well. After a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign and a seemingly breakneck development cycle, we’ve been treated to incredible in-game footage showing our favourite giant robots engaging in glorious combat with laser, PPC, and even fists. From these brief glimpses (and very helpful forum posts directly from the developers) we have a list of ‘Mechs known to grace the battlefields of the future. Now, in weight order, your ‘Mech list.


image courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

LIGHT

Locust
Commando
Spider
Firestarter
Jenner
Panther
Urbanmech
Raven

MEDIUM

Cicada
Blackjack
Vindicator
Centurion
Enforcer
Hunchback
Trebuchet
Griffin
Kintaro
Shadowhawk
Wolverine

HEAVY

Dragon
Quickdraw
Catapult
Jagermech
Thunderbolt
Grasshopper
Orion
Marauder
Warhammer
Cataphract

ASSAULT

Awesome
Victor
Zeus
BattleMaster
Stalker
Highlander
Banshee
King Crab
Atlas

There is a lot to be excited about in this list, not the least of which is the inclusion of several of the most popular Unseen ‘Mechs that are rare to find in BattleTech games. Each weight class includes a variety of designs that showcase a ‘Mech’s options of firepower, armour, or speed, ensuring there’s no lack of ability in any category.

The Light class draws primarily from previous MechWarrior and MechCommander games. The venerable Urbanmech is sure to please fans of the adorable yet powerful trashcan, while the Panther, Locust, and Spider will make their first appearance in a tactical computer ‘Mech game. Of course, no BattleTech game would be complete without the inclusion of the noble and stalwart Commando, having been featured in every game since MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. How many of us have taken our first steps in the twenty-five ton classic?

The workhorse class of Medium ‘Mechs appropriately has the largest roster. Old standbys such as the Centurion, Hunchback and Trebuchet form the core of the fifty ton class, while the Cicada brings up the lighter end of this diverse category. The Kintaro makes an appearance despite being relatively rare in the Inner Sphere during the time period for which the game is set, while the unseen Shadowhawk, Wolverine and Griffin round out the top end. The diverse and adaptable Blackjack also makes an appearance, and is sure to bring joy to any medium ‘Mech fan. Notably absent are the Clint and Whitworth, making the 40 ton range seem a little sparse with only the Cicada representing. Hopefully another 40 ton ‘Mech will make an appearance before the game’s release.

Now we branch into the heavy hitters in the Heavy class, where old meets new as classic designs found in many previous iterations of MechWarrior intermingle with some rarely seen gems. The Dragon, Quickdraw, Catapult and Jagermech can be found in nearly every MechWarrior game going back generations, while the rarely seen Cataphract will be House Liao’s contribution to the fray. The highly mobile Grasshopper will be sure to satisfy fans of the venerable laser boat, and the Orion gives an air of dignified sophistication for enthusiasts of BattleTech lore.

Finally we have the true beasts of the Assault class, and what BattleTech game would be complete without these power houses? We have ‘Mechs seen in many previous MechWarrior games such as the Zeus, Victor, Awesome, and Stalker, however the Banshee and King Crab provide some fresh blood to the class, having only previously been featured in MechWarrior Online. The Highlander and Battlemaster are lovely inclusions for lore buffs, and the indomitable Atlas rounds out the lot with its unmistakable death’s head grin.

Each weight category has a robust lineup of ‘Mechs sure to make any ‘Mech-head salivate in anticipation, but of course not every ‘Mech can make the cut. What ‘Mechs would you love to have included in the game? Let us know in the comments!

Are You Heading to Mech_Con?

On December 3rd, over in the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Canada, Piranha Games is hosting a day long BattleTech and Mechwarrior themed convention.

A variety of events and fun stuff is planned.  Many guests from various community members and companies are planning on attending, such as Jordan Weisman and Randall Bills or online media personalities from Twitch and such.

Mech_Con

In the best traditions of the Solaris VII Games, one of the headline events is the first World Championship of MechWarrior Online.  Don’t you want to establish dominance and win that trophy?

Hey look, everybody knows that we don’t always get a chance to flip some dice and push around metal the way it was meant to be in real life.  I’m playing online with stuff like MegaMek.  So, getting the chance to play live with real enthusiasts, purchase stuff from live vendors, get some autographs, and rub noses and talk shop with with all of you folks is a great opportunity.

So what about you?  Are you heading over?  Why not check out all of the information they have to see if you are interested in getting your ‘Mech on, Vancouver style!

Interview with Jordan Weisman about the BATTLETECH game at GenCon 2016

At GenCon 2016 last weekend, we were treated to an awesome surprise: a playable Super-Pre-Alpha demo of BATTLETECH.

This game is going to be awesome.

The Super-Pre-Alpha demo was playable by anyone attending the convention, and featured a single mission where your lance attempts to capture a salvage base.  I had the opportunity to play it for a while and left feeling giddy and wanting more.  It’s exciting to see the game in such a playable state just 9 months after the Kickstarter wrapped up.

Afterward I stopped drooling over the game, I had a chance to chat with Jordan Weisman, creator of BattleTech (the table top game) and co-founder of Harebrained Schemes to talk about BATTLETECH.

BATTLETECH game

Nic Jansma (sarna.net): I spoke with Mitch Gitelman and Mike McCain of HBS last year here at GenCon 2015.  Since then, Harebrained Studios raised $2.7m in an extremely successful Kickstarter.  And only 9 months later, and you brought a playable demo to GenCon.  That’s awesome!  Your team has accomplished a lot.

Jordan Weisman: We have!  It’s exciting the way this development process has gone.

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Kickstarter Awards Arrive for BattleTech Video Game

Well, it arrived today!  I was one of many Kickstarter backers of the various levels for Harebrained Schemes’ BattleTech Video game, slated for release next year.

Like many folks I backed at a high enough pledge to get both some nice BattleTech swag, as well as some strong comfort in helping to bring back a major video game opportunity for the franchise.  We need an infusion of marketing and interest.  Hopefully the latest video game will prove just the ticket!

It’s hard for me to find swag anywhere but online these days, so it was nice for me to open up my sweet bag of Draconis Combine swag.  Here it is!

Swag = Mag

Swag = Mag

I’m pretty stoked! I’m wearing my Draconis Combine pin to work tomorrow!

Did you order anything?  Has it arrived?  What did you get?  And who’s ready for some BattleTech?

Sarna Wiki: Project Video Games

After some time off, I’ve returned to editing the Sarna.net wiki and have plenty of ideas for improving the wiki. As usual, there’s the constant need for new articles and article updates, as well as the ever-growing pile of articles that need proofreading. I want to pick up where I left off with the unofficial “project video games”.

'Mech combat on Cermak

‘Mech combat on the planet Cermak

With this project we are aiming to vastly improve our coverage of the various video games in the BattleTech universe. Though these games are not expressly canon, they still are an important part of the ongoing universe and deserve better coverage than they have gotten.

So far, we have quantified and organized all the MechCommander and MechCommander 2 equipment stats, but the ’Mech and vehicle pages for the original MechCommander need work. With more help for those pages and for all the MechWarrior games’ related pages, these video games could be much better covered.

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Techwars Online Reviewed

Get your Tech On!

Last week, Techwars Online, a Steam Greenlight success story, that made it through all of the hurdles, was released on Steam for ten dollars.  Well that certainly seems like a price worth trying out.  So I grabbed a copy of the game, and invested some time into figuring out this turn based tactical game featuring BattleMechs fighting it out.

To begin, you can move each of your units up to three hexes, with a twist of your torso counting as one.  And you can fire one weapon.  Each weapon has different ranges and firing arcs.  You may have short range lasers that can only reach 2-3 hexes away, or long range missiles which won’t fire close in at all, but which can hit with a spread out range.  Some weapons require a direct line to hit, like your main cannon, so moving, firing, and more is all important.  Also important is turning after firing to protect yourself.  It’s all about winning, not about how damaged your unit gets in the process, right?

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Techwars Online Released

Techwars Online is now out on Steam

Sometimes you are just looking for a little ‘Mech on ‘Mech action.  Whatever the Intellectual Property, and whatever the style, a quick little online PC action happening can solve that desire.  Load up the game, log on, and blast some folks.  That’s why a lot of us are playing games like Mechwarrior:  Online.  This week, another (mostly) online ‘Mech game was released as well.  Techwars Online.

Turn-Based Fun Times!

The game is an admitted throwback.  Slower, turned-based combat in a time of fast games.  It’s actually based on a Russian novel of the same name, set in the future as two mega-corps battle for supremacy with BattleMechs.  Starting in Greenlight, it arrived on Steam on May 17th.  You can pick it up from the Steam Store Page for $10.

In the game, you start with the same ‘Mech as others, and then can upgrade it or change out ammo over time.  Grab the game, try it out with others, and see if it’s your style!  Turn-based ‘Mech combat.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  Even if it doesn’t evoke BattleTech per se, sometimes you just gotta get your ‘Mech on!

MMNet Concludes Campaign and Announces Major Changes

Yay Mechs!

Yay Mechs!

On January 31st, the various electors that are running the current MegaMekNet Campaign announced that it will be concluding soon.  The Free Worlds League has won, and a new cycle will begin on March 1st.  In the wake of the victory, several major announcements were made to increase the value of the campaign in the future.  (MegaMekNet is an online campaign played through various shareware programs, you can download and check out)

The various members of the winning faction, as long as they had enough games to qualify, are going to win units for the next campaign, randomly pulled from a special reward unit list.  This is the first time that the winning faction for one campaign gets rewards for the next one, no matter whether they remain Marik or not.

Meanwhile, the way victory is determined will shift in the future.  Previously, one faction usually won when they assaulted and captured the capital of an enemy.   This has always created an inequity in the game as those states with a smaller path the capital (like the Capellan Confederation) are easier to defeat.  Meanwhile, it becomes pretty easy to know when one faction has “virtually” won and it’s hard to fight against that momentum.  Sometimes players won’t continue to invest time, sweat, blood, and metal in the campaign if it won’t change the outcome.

So how is the online campaign going to shift?  The goal won’t be to take capitals, but a new slate of “Victory Planets” that are placed on the borders.  All you have to do is to capture a net of these worlds from various fronts, and once you do, then you win.  Not only will this balance the books,  not only will it keep the campaign in flux, but it also will allow the campaign to better resemble the main line BattleTech wars.  Most wars and conflicts were ended by one side taking some key border planets from the other that were fought over.  So the resulting changes will give players the  ability to fight for border worlds that makes a campaign more dynamic as well as getting rewards for winning for the next one.

That’s a pretty spicy set of changes.  March 1st will be a good time to check it out and try the new campaign.  Check out their thread post for more info.